Virtual teams can suffer from critical dynamics going unnoticed
Awareness for team dynamics is another competency for effective virtual leaders.
This post is closing the series of essential competencies for virtual leaders. With this last one on team dynamics I would like to present you how you can develop this one further in order to boost your effectiveness with your team and organisation.
The other competencies over the past few weeks, should you have missed them, were self-leadership, effective communication and productive relationships, intercultural sensitivity, direction & meaning and talent development.
I assume the work of Bruce Tuckman, conducted in 1965 on dynamics in group development (forming – storming – norming – performing), is common knowledge. If you do want to refresh your memory check it out here.
From my perspective this competency has two main aspects.
One is the ability to recognise the developmental dynamics of your virtual team from the moment of creation until it has reached performance level.
Second is the ability to keep your awareness high on subtle signals in team interactions which indicate potential conflict areas that could derail your virtual team.
All of this can be difficult to catch because of the limited interactions with the members of your virtual team. Hence, your ability to pay attention to subtleties as well as to the quality of collaboration and relationships present in the virtual team is key.
To develop your effectiveness in this area further consider the following thoughts:
- When forming a new virtual team and starting a team development process try to hear what’s behind the initial polite exchange and where you can observe unusual exchanges which may have a slight sting to them. One may have the tendency to ignore this in the initial phase of a local team as it will be observable more often in day-to-day interactions. However, the frequency of interaction in a virtual team is far lower and, hence, such tensions may grow and manifest themselves in a full blown conflict if not caught and dealt with at a very early stage.
- Make it part of the team culture to openly speak about cases you have observed where, for example, different members tease each other. This can help the whole team to speak about issues more openly and defuse tension and potential conflicts at the personal level more easily.
- Invest in a regular team evaluation: explore together how things are going, what is going well and must be kept, and what can be improved and how? Put the functioning of the team explicitly on the agenda!
- When the going gets tough in the team because of challenges in tasks or projects, you as the team leader should pay particular attention to how people deal with each other to resolve issues and conflicts. Look for signals where ever so slightly blame shows up. Address this openly in order to take care of the quality of relationships in your virtual team.
Being fully aware and actively managing these dynamics can help you as a virtual leader to bring your team to high performance and have a healthy and productive climate in your team. This may not only deliver better results it will also build your reputation in your organisation as a highly effective and appreciated leader.
As always, if you like to explore this in greater depth please get in touch with me and we can discuss much more specific approaches for your virtual context.
This concludes now the series of the core seven competencies of virtual leaders. I hope you enjoyed reading the different parts and considered them valuable food for thought which can help you to become more effective as a leader of your virtual team.
We explore this and other business relevant subjects in our Virtual Leaders Lounge. This is an informal online meeting of maximum 10 business leaders where we discuss challenges in virtual teams and organisations and share best practices. No PowerPoint is used, no prep work required!